The eighth perek of Masechet Kilayim talks about the types of animals that can and cannot work together in the field due to the issur of Kilayim. For example, a mule whose mother is a horse may not work with a mule whose mother is a donkey. Yet two mules that both had donkeys for mothers may work together. During this chapter, a wide range of animals are discussed including animals which are no longer found in Eretz Yisrael such as elephants and monkeys (see 8:6).
However, no creature is as interesting as the “Adnei Ha’Sadeh” that is mentioned in perek 8 Mishnah 5. According to the Tana Kama, an Adnei Ha’Sadeh is considered an animal in every respect, yet R’ Yosi argues that it has the same laws as a human, with regard to tum’ah and taharah. But what is an Adnei Ha’Sadeh?
The Tiferet Yisrael offers the simplest answer. He claims that an Adnei Ha’Sadeh is an orangutan, which, as we know, has many characteristics that are similar to humans. However, the Talmud Yerushalmi (Masechet Kilayim 8:4) claims that an Adnei Ha’Sadeh is some type of wild man who lives in the forests or mountains. It is at this point that the answers start to become more magical and mysterious.
The Rambam in his Perush Hamishnayot (Kilayim 8:5) explains that an Adnei Ha’Sadeh is a creature that talks constantly even though its speech is unintelligible, and talks similar to a human. The Rambam finishes his explanation by adding that much is written about this creature in ‘books’.
Some of these ‘books’ may include the explanation of the Bartenura who explains that the Adnei Ha’Sadeh is an animal whose features are similar to that of humans yet it is connected to the ground by an umbilical cord through which it draws nutrients. Its real name is “Yaduah” and it is a fearsome creature that devours any other creature that comes too close. The Bartenura concludes by advising us that the best way to hunt this animal is to shoot arrows directly at the cord – its life source – and once this is damaged, the Yaduah will die immediately.
This explanation is somewhat puzzling. If the Yaduah is so dangerous, why would anyone risk trying to hunt it? The answer to this lies in Rashi’s explanation to Vayikra 19:31: “Do not turn to any medium (Ovot) or Yidoni”. Rashi explains that a Yidoni gained a supernatural ability to see into the future by inserting a bone of the Yaduah into their mouths and either the bone would talk (Rashi) or the bone would give them the ability to talk (Tiferet Yisrael, Rambam). Another feature of this bone is that according to the Ra’avad, you can insert this bone into the mouth of a dead person and conduct a conversation with that person. It is these magical and mysterious features that clearly make the Yaduah a very sought after prize.
After evaluating a number of different options as to what is an Adnei Ha’Sadeh, it might now be possible to better understand the reasoning behind the views of the Tana Kama and R’ Yosi with regard to this creature’s halachic status as a man or a beast. The Tana Kama would agree with the explanation of the Tiferet Yisrael and others who claim that the Adnei Ha’Sadeh is much closer to apes and monkeys than humans and therefore has the din of an animal. Whereas R’ Yosi would agree with the view of the Yerushalmi that it is a wild man and therefore would have the same din as a human with regard to Tum’ah and Taharah
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